Clare and Sara Bronfman, who fund NXIVM and Keith Raniere, are the granddaughters of Samuel Bronfman.
In Yiddish, “Bronfman” means “liquor-man.” The family is Russian Jewish.
During Canada’s prohibition (1915-19), Sam Bronfman, with brothers Abe, Harry and Alan, turned their hotel and prostitution operations into “boozeriums.”
Business was brisk until 1918, when a law was passed that prohibited the manufacture or importation of alcohol. There was a loophole that permitted distribution by pharmacists of alcohol for “medicinal” purposes. The Bronfmans went into the mail order business putting labels on their whiskey such as “Rock-A-Bye Cough Cure” and Dandy Bracer–Liver and Kidney Cure; it contained sugar, molasses, bluestone, 36 percent alcohol, and tobacco.
With the passage of the Volstead Act in 1919, making and drinking liquor illegal in the United States, Sam and Harry opened export houses along the Saskatchewan-North Dakota border. They reduced 65-over proof white alcohol, mixing it with water, some real whiskey and a bit of burnt sugar. A shot of sulfuric acid simulated the aging process.
Their whiskey cost $24 per barrel and sold by the barrel for $140.
Sam and his brothers cut distribution deals with Arnold Rothstein, Meyer Lansky, Charles “Lucky” Luciano, and Arthur ‘Dutch Schultz,’ Flegenheimer.
In Detroit, the “little Jewish navy” of Morris Dalit ferried Bronfman booze into the U.S.
In Chicago, “Big Jim” Colosimo alienated Bronfman by showing little interest in patronizing his liquor, preferring to focus on drugs, prostitution and loan-sharking. When Big Jim passed away suddenly, his nephew, John Torrio, took over, and soon enough, Bronfman liquor flowed into Chicago.
Torrio’s lieutenant Al Capone ran Bronfman booze from Saskatchewan to Minneapolis then to Chicago using cars, trucks and the Soo line. Benjamin “Bugs” Siegel and Lansky protected Bronfman liquor shipments across the border against hijackers.
To meet demand, Bronfman bought up stretches of farmland along the border and built an underground pipeline to pump “Seagram Chickencock” a mixture of pure alcohol, sulfuric acid. caramel, water and aged rye whiskey, into the USA.
Between 1920 and 1930, 34.000 Americans died from alcohol poisoning.
In 1924, Bronfman opened a distillery in Montreal. In 1926, the Distillery Corporation of London [DCL] owned by Field Marshal Haig, Lord Dewar, Lord Woolavington, and others, and which controlled more than half the world market in scotch whiskey, partnered with Bronfman. They formed a holding company with DCL’s William Ross as president, Sam Bronfman vice-president. Bronfman became a ‘cutout’ for the men behind DCL, and the dispensation of distribution rights was a decision made by His Majesty the King
It began as a three-way contract between Britain (the supplier), Bronfman (the cutout), and Rothstein (the distributor). It evolved into a nationally organized crime syndicate.
Rothstein was assigned the job of “reorganizing” crime networks. He set up syndicates on the East Coast with the help of Torrio. A special bureau was set up by Lansky and “Bugs” Siegel. Murder, Inc. was formed as a regulatory commission to police “free enterprise” advocates who might try to buck the syndicate and interfere with booze sales.
After Rothstein died suddenly in 1928, Torrio had his first meeting of the syndicate in Cleveland. The third item on the agenda was what to do after Prohibition. Torrio proposed narcotics. Rothstein, Lansky, and Luciano traveled to Shanghai and Hong Kong to streamline and expand the drug trade into the United States, negotiating with Chinese drug-runners, who were pressured by the British “business community” to pull together an opium cartel expansion of Shanghai heroin into the United States.
The Bronfmans created the Atlas Shipping Company and moved their smuggling operations to the French islands of St. Pierre and Miquelon, 15 miles off the Newfoundland coast. From Bermuda, Saint John, New Brunswick, and Belize, the Atlas Shipping Company was one of the first ties laid down in the money-drug underground railway between Canada and the Caribbean.
With Bronfman’s enormous assistance, a substantial chunk of the world’s financial system became devoted to moving, laundering, and investing drug money. From the Hong Kong & Shanghai Bank, to the offshore havens in the Caribbean, to the biggest banks in the United States, Britain, Canada, and Switzerland, the system revolved around drug money.
With the repeal of Prohibition and with the Shanghai opium deal in operation, the Bronfmans “went legit.” The new phase of respectability signaled that the most successful big time whiskey bootleggers were switching to big time narcotics.
The British realized the Bronfmans would be a liability if they continued to work as openly with their distributors in narcotics trafficking as they did running Prohibition. They could not afford to dump Bronfman. The family had become irreplaceable due to its in-depth control over the syndicates which were needed to pump drugs into America.
The problem was resolved by bringing Bronfman into the lower rungs of the Hofjuden caste. Sam’s children were welcomed into the Hofjuden elite by intermarriage. Almost overnight, the Rothschilds, Montefiores, de Hirsches et al took “Mr. Sam”, the crime czar of North America, and transformed him into a rising star of the Canadian Zionist movement.
In 1934, Sam was made chairman of the National Jewish People’s Relief Committee in Canada. By 1939, he was appointed head of Baron de Hirsch’s Jewish Colonization Association. The Canadian Pacific Corporation invited Sam to establish a refugee organization for Eastern European Jews. He became head of the Canadian Jewish Committee. After World War II, Sam established the National Conference of Israeli and Jewish Rehabilitation.
The “legitimate” enterprises the Bronfmans moved into were inter-meshed with companies controlled by leading opium traders. Using the name of the distillery he had purchased, Sam founded Joseph E. Seagram & Sons, Inc. Despite the fact he built Seagrams with his brothers, Sam decided the business was his alone. He forced his brothers out and declared that only his sons, Edgar and Charles, would work for Seagram.
Bronfman expanded Seagram to sell in 150 countries, his operations constituting the largest liquor distribution system in world history. Wherever Seagram branches appeared on the map, they were intermeshed with narcotics runners.
Seagram acquired West Indies distilleries which would introduce Captain Morgan, Myers’s, Woods, and Trelawny labels. Seagram purchased Chivas [Regal] Mumm’s Champagne, Perrior-Jouet Champagne, Barton & Guestier, Augier Frères, Paul Masson vineyards and distribution rights to Absolut vodka.
Seagrams invested in the Alberta-based oil company, Royalite. He purchased the Frankfort Oil Company and expanded Tropicana Products with the purchase of the beverage operations of Dole Food Co.
His son, Edgar, married Ann Loeb, daughter of Loeb, Rhoades. and Co. in 1953, bringing the Bronfmans into Wall Street. They had five children together – Samuel, Edgar Jr., Holly, Matthew, and Adam. In 1957, Edgar became Seagram’s president.
In 1963, Seagram acquired the Texas Pacific Coal and Oil Company. Frankfort and Texas Pacific were merged to form Texas Pacific Oil Company, Inc.
In 1969, Sam was made a Knight of Grace of the Most Venerable Order of St. John of Jerusalem – Her Majesty’s official chivalric order. He won the Order of Canada – the country’s highest honor for lifetime achievement.
In 1971, at age of 81, the old murderer turned knight, Sam Bronfman died of prostate cancer. On the day of his funeral, Montreal’s airport had to be temporarily closed to regular traffic due to the arrival of so many private jets shuttling in dignitaries from around the world to pay their respects.
Edgar assumed family leadership. In 1975, Edgar married Rita Webb who gave birth to Sara and Clare Bronfman. In 1978, Bronfman wealth was estimated to be about $7 billion [$28 billion in 2018 dollars].
Edgar became president of the World Jewish Congress in 1981 and decided that his son, Edgar Jr., would be his business successor.
Seagram purchased 15 percent interest in Time Warner Inc. for $2.2 billion.
In the mid-1990s, Bronfman, Jr. sold Seagram’s stake in DuPont receiving $11 billion. Seagram acquired 84 percent of MCA, Inc. for $5.7 billion. MCA – whose name Seagram changed to Universal Studios, Inc. – included Universal Pictures film studios, MCA Television Group, MCA Music Entertainment Group, Universal theme parks, and Spencer Gifts.
In 1997, Seagram divested its holdings in Time Warner, ending up with a profit of $2.13 billion. Seagram then purchased USA Networks.
In 1998, Seagram sold its juice business to Pepsi for $3.3 billion.
In 2000, Edgar Jr. exchanged his family’s entire firm – booze, music labels, TV production contracts, U.S. theme parks and all – for $34 billion in stock in Vivendi, a French sewer and filtration outfit intent on transforming itself into a global entertainment conglomerate.
Edgar, Jr. was named executive vice president of Vivendi Universal. But Vivendi CEO Jean-Marie Messier did not make good on his promise to merge the two companies into a media giant. Instead, he made a number of deals that drove the share price down to a fraction of what it was when Vivendi acquired Seagram. All told, on this one deal, the Bronfman family lost about two-thirds of the fortune accumulated since Sam and his brothers’ bootlegging and murder days in the 1920s.
In 2004, Edgar Jr. trying to make a comeback put together a group of investors to buy the music operations of Time Warner Inc. Sadly, it was another boneheaded investment. The traditional industry’s survival depended on selling $20 CDs, not $1 downloads. Power shifted from retailers to fans.
Along the way, Bronfman turned down EMI’s offer to buy Warner for $31 a share. In 2011, Access Industries bought the failing Warner Music Group from Bronfman for $8.25 a share.
Most of what remained of the Bronfman family money was lost in this deal.
On December 22, 2013, Edgar Bronfman Sr. died at age 84. His personal net worth was estimated to be several billion which was divided up by his seven children and wife. Sara and Clare, who had already borrowed against their inheritance, got an estimated $250-$300-million each.
It’s hard to imagine that under Keith Raniere’s guidance, they have increased their net worth.They blew through their first trust fund before their father died.
In early 2005, they began covering Raniere’s losses in the commodities market. From January 2005 to late 2007, Raniere, trading through First Principles, Inc., a company registered in Nancy Salzman’s name, would lose close to $70 million—and the Bronfmans would cover $65.6 million of it.
By late 2007, they sunk $26.4 million into a Los Angeles real-estate project that ran amok. They also spent an estimated $50 million in lawyers on litigation against Raniere’s enemies. They have lost almost every lawsuit.
It has been said that, despite their wealth, the Bronfman family were, in terms of global power, only front men. Cut-outs, whose main purpose was to provide cover for the criminal activity of those much higher up the financial food chain.
Over three generations, the Bronfmans – mainly through Edgar Jr., – lost most of their ill-gotten wealth. The comparatively small share inherited by Clare and Sara – has been spent in out-sized proportion to enable Keith Raniere to punish and hurt thousands of human beings.
In this, they are much like their grandfather, cut outs for Raniere – able to hurt others enormously with each dollar they spend. And they foolishly squandered money like Edgar Jr. guided by the self proclaimed world’s smartest man – Keith Raniere.
In that respect, it is a mercy, for every dollar they spend or waste is one less dollar they can use to punish other human beings.